When you manage a sports organization your most important job in the offseason is promoting your league and registering players. Depending on the type of league you manage, you could have a lot of players that move on to older age groups and you need to replace them with younger players.
It's a big challenge to increase participation each year. Many volunteers spend a lot of time stressing about having enough players to register for the season to keep their league well funded. Don't be left wondering why you have too few players next season.
If you don't have enough players for your next season, here are a few reasons why.
Don't just assume every player and parent in your community know about your organization!
Parents are busy and if you don't make an effort to communicate with them you'll have a tough time getting players registered. Many new families have recently moved to your community and may not know what sports are available for kids in the region.
It's critical that your organization has at least one active social media account. Don't feel like managing a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram page your self? Find a tech savvy volunteer that doesn't mind posting to Facebook or Instagram once your twice per week about your organization. You can post photos, registration information, and league schedules on your accounts.
After you've got an active social media account you need to setup a website to promote your organization. Your website needs to work well on phones and be search friendly so that people can easily search on Google to find your league information. The website can should serve as the hub for information about your league, registration before your season, and scheduling updates during the season.
A few other ideas to attract attention in your area:
Set up a booth at local events like festivals and fundraisers.
Consider signing up to sponsor other sports organizations in your area. If you run a youth baseball league, you should consider being a paid sponsor of the youth basketball league in your community, and vice versa. Share email lists with other leagues in your area so you can easily send out messages when it's time to register for a new sport.
Build a relationship with the high school coaches in your community. Make sure they know you're supporting youth sports, and ask them to post registration information about your league.
Run a few "old school" fundraisers like a car wash or mulch sale. These fundraisers can be a lot of work, but they're a fun and effective way to get the word out about your league.
Studies show that the rising cost of youth sports is the most significant factor in declines in participation.
Are you doing everything you can to make your organization affordable? Have you found sponsors locally and regionally to help support your organizations so families don't bear all of the costs? Have you explored grant opportunities that could be available to your organization?
The more expensive it is to play your sport, the tougher it will be to get parents to register. One of your primary concerns as a volunteer should be finding ways to make your league affordable for families.
Start working with your board and coaches to find out of a reduction in pricing would help increase participation. Could finding a new sponsor or grant in your community help offset costs for parents? Once you've finalized a fee structure that works well for your operating budget you can move on to making the registration process super easy.
Don't make parents jump through hoops to register players. You need to make it super simple for a parent to learn about your organization, register, and pay all while sitting on the couch in their home. Like it or not, parents are used to instant gratification - and if it's tough for them to register they'll find other activities for their kids.
If you're still requiring parents to fill out paperwork and write checks to participate, you need to get started using an online player registration system right away.
It's easier than ever to collect payments online and manage player information. Don't keep putting it off, and start allowing parents to register online next season.
If your league is disorganized parents won't come back to register next year. Parents don't want to deal with complicated schedules and lack of communication.
A few steps can make your league more organized next season:
Assign one board or committee member to recruit and organize new volunteers. The more people you have involved the better.
Post all of your schedules online. Parents need to be able to find all of the information they need quickly from their phone.
Regularly send out text and email notifications to parents. Parents and community members need to know what's going on. If you don't let them know about registration or don't update them when practices are cancelled they'll get frustrated.
Keep your website up to date 12-months of the year. When people visit your website make sure they're easily able to find important information like who to contact with questions, when the season starts, and how to register.
Organize a fun event in the offseason (like a fundraiser, short weekend camp, or overnight trip)
You should also make sure your organization is somewhat active 12-months per year. Just because your teams only play for a few months doesn't mean you can't be posting information to your Facebook page, sending out a Newsletter, or promoting registration on your website.
Run your organization like a well-oiled machine and you'll build a reputation in your community that parents come back to each year.